‘A way inside their heads’
The German attack on the Cunard liner Lusitania 100 years ago proved to be a pivotal event in the First World War. Now the story of its loss has been re-imagined by a novelist who presents a new theory about the decision to target the passengership.
2015 will see the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania, a British-flagged liner which succumbed to a torpedo attack by a German submarine in the First World War. The incident is seen as significant because it presaged the widespread changes in the practice of warfare during the 20th century — changes which increasingly saw ‘enemy’ civilians become fair game as military targets. At the time, though, the American people were said to have been so shocked at the attack on a passenger ship carrying innocent women and children that the incident prompted the neutral USA to join the war on the side of the Allies.
The analysis of events these days tends to be more nuanced, not least because the Americans did not actually become involved in combat until the Axis powers threatened them more directly in 1917. And some feel that the Lusitania was a legitimate military target by any standards, given the likelihood that she had been carrying US-made ammunition and/or weaponry destined for use by British forces.
Author Greg Taylor has come up with an even stronger theory about why the Lusitania could have been a target, and in a new novel, Lusitania R.E.X, he cleverly weaves together fact and ﬁction to make a plausible case that the vessel could have been carrying secret rocket technology — the forerunner to the V1 and V2 ‘flying bombs’ of the Second World War and of all human space exploration.
It’s a good yarn in the Dan Brown vein, with glamorous settings, wartime peril, politic machinations, millionaires. aristocrats and royalty, and a generous helping of sex and romance.